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Japan Air Self-Defense Force joins RED FLAG-Alaska training

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force maintenance officer, Lt. Akira Orimoto, salutes an F-15 Eagle pilot during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1, Oct. 8, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachelle Coleman)

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force maintenance officer, Lt. Akira Orimoto, salutes an F-15 Eagle pilot during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1, Oct. 8, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachelle Coleman)

Staff Sergeants Shoji Yamamoto, gunner, Masami Ishida, team chief, and Kazuma Yamaji, Smokey Sam launcher, simulate launching an anti-aircraft rocket for training during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1 Oct. 9, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint, coalition and bilateral training from a simulated forward operating base. They are Japan Air Self Defense Force airmen assigned to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson)

Staff Sergeants Shoji Yamamoto, gunner, Masami Ishida, team chief, and Kazuma Yamaji, Smokey Sam launcher, simulate launching an anti-aircraft rocket for training during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1 Oct. 9, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint, coalition and bilateral training from a simulated forward operating base. They are Japan Air Self Defense Force airmen assigned to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson)

Staff Sgt. Kazuma Yamaji prepares Smokey Sams to simulate launching an anti-aircraft rocket for training during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1 Oct. 9, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and coalition forces under simulated combat conditions. Sergeant Yamaji is a Japan Air Self Defense Force airmen assigned to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson)

Staff Sgt. Kazuma Yamaji prepares Smokey Sams to simulate launching an anti-aircraft rocket for training during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1 Oct. 9, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and coalition forces under simulated combat conditions. Sergeant Yamaji is a Japan Air Self Defense Force airmen assigned to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson)

Several F-15 Eagle's from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force prepare to take to the sky during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1, Oct. 8, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachelle Coleman)

Several F-15 Eagle's from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force prepare to take to the sky during RED FLAG-Alaska 10-1, Oct. 8, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachelle Coleman)

EIELSON AFB, Alaska -- The first couple F-15 Eagles, from Japan Air Self-Defense Force, gracefully climbed into the sky. The last fighter rose in the same manner until, in a sudden surprising movement, the pilot banked the plane to the right before chasing the other fighters into the sky.

JASDF airmen are participating in RED FLAG-Alaska alongside several visiting countries that are also here for the same training.

Lt. Col. Osamu Uemori, the commander of the 303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron located at Komatsu Air Base, said that during RED FLAG-Alaska the Japanese representatives remain focused on their mission. Their mission is to practice in Alaska and become even more ready in the area of defense combat skills. 

Colonel Uemori is very impressed with Eielson Air Force Base.

Of course, there are differences between the operations here and in Japan. Colonel Uemori explained how it is hard familiarizing with the training. This has not hindered the pilots' ability to learn because he Uemori believes the pilots have sufficiently and successfully learned different combat skills here.

The general consensus from the JASDF airmen is that Alaska is cold. It's understandable why the weather seemed to occupy their thoughts when giving their opinion of their stay on Eielson. The crews are from the warmer climate of Komatsu Air Base and Naha Air Base, Japan, but they make sure they get out and experience Alaska. The environment and weather are not the only changes the JASDF airmen has experienced. 

Colonel Uemori said because of the differences between the training environment as well as local regulations here, the amount of space in the air and on the flight line is much larger.

Master Sgt. Kazuo Odake, the line chief for the 6th Wing Komatsu AB, Ishikawa Prefecture agreed, explaining the effect this difference had on the crew.

He said, "The flight line is so huge when compared to our Japanese flight line, so they walk a lot since the distance when we move back and forth between airplanes and hangars is so long."

On an average work day in Japan, the maintainers work three missions which equal 15-hour workdays. At RED FLAG-Alaska, they work 13-hour days. It could be said the maintainers enjoy this training schedule.

Participating in RED FLAG-Alaska has allowed Sergeant Odake to spend more time with the maintainer crew. He is enjoying this valuable time with the maintainers. He said, "It will be a good memory," he said about the extra time that is proving to be valuable.

For 1st Lt. Takehisa Kohara , an F-15 pilot from the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, this is his first RED FLAG-Alaska mission. He has enjoyed participating in the exercise.

"Some differences in the training in Japan and Alaska are one, time differences, and two, color of the sky." He continued saying, "It is clearer in Alaska than it is in Japan. No airy dust here."

The amount of air space  the pilots have available to them during RF-A, allows for a larger practice arena. As they practice there are some things they must contend with and overcome to be successful in their RED FLAG-Alaska mission.

For the pilots, communication is not so much of a problem, he said. Technical terms are used in flight so although it is more difficult, it is not enough to inhibit the safety of the pilots.

In addition to the pilots and maintainers that have come to train alongside other countries in RED FLAG-Alaska exercises, four stinger teams are also participating.

This is not the first time 1st Lt. Chikara Komiyama, the firing squadron commander of the Air Defense Artillery with 83rd Air Wing at Naha AB, Okinawa, Japan, has trained at RED FLAG-Alaska.

The stinger is a shoulder-fired, "fire and forget" surface-to-air guided missile that enables ground personnel to find, track and intercept low-altitude jets, propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. This passive infrared missile system hones in on the heat emitted by those aircraft. The stinger features the ability to find and track its target rapidly, and to destroy aircraft attacking from any direction.

The stinger is one of three weapons used in Japan. Lieutenant Komiyama said the stinger operators are learning "how to improve our tactics to use the stinger safely, quickly and accurately. That is our mission."

The stinger operators include a gunner, team chief and "Smokey Sam" launcher. The team chief helps spot enemy aircraft and the gunner targets the aircraft and simulates firing the stinger. The technician launches a Smokey Sam, a large version of a bottle rocket, which leaves a visible smoke trail at launch so pilots can identify a threat and implement appropriate countermeasures such as evasive action and flares.

While the stinger teams can conduct training at their home station, here they get the opportunity to train with other countries and aircraft that are not readily available in Japan. 

Lieutenant Komiyama said, "We don't train like this with the United States forces in Japan."

Their training here also benefits the RF-A pilots who get exposed to the hostile combat situation when the stinger teams target them and launch a simulated anti-aircraft rocket.

The stinger teams' general mission objectives during RF-A are to protect designated ground assets from simulated enemy aircraft, who include the visiting pilots such as those flying the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from 25th Fighter Squadron.

The teams have simulated launching nearly 60 stingers at pilots during the first week of training here as part of RF-A 10-1. The teams brought 100 Smokey Sams.

"This is very good training for us. It is very exciting and much like a shooting range. We have achieved a high kill rate," said Lieutenant Komiyama.